Fiction, Nonfiction

Pre-reading Activities that Support Comprehension

Pre-reading activities help the students prepare before reading. Like most things we do, planning happens first. Gardening, scrapbooking, and cooking all require planning. Reading is no different. What are some activities that would help students get ready to read?

When planning activities before reading, you need to consider the students’ background on the text. Ask yourself if this something they have some knowledge of? For example, students often know some basic facts on planets, animals, oceans, etc. If students have some background on the concept they will be reading about, then a word splash or anticipation guide would work well.

What is a Word Splash?

A word splash is a collection of terms and concepts that are related to the topic being studied. Students make connections between the words using them in sentences. I have used this as a starter activity for students to write a few sentences. I have then had students discuss what they wrote. This gives me the opportunity to guide the instruction for the week. If students have misunderstandings on how carbon dioxide plays a part then I can have that be something I focus on in one of the lessons. If there are a lot of vocabulary terms in a unit, you may want to use some terms for one week rather than all the terms a unit might have in the word splash. This way, you could use a word splash at the beginning of each week to preview the content as well as assess the student’s prior knowledge. This activity works well when students are familiar with the key concepts.

This is an example of a word splash used before studying plants.

What is an anticipation guide?

An anticipation guide has statements about the key concepts related to what students will be reading about. Students agree or disagree with these statements prior to reading and then reflect on these statements as they read. The emphasis before reading is for the students to share what they know. It isn’t about whether the students are right or wrong. I often read the statements aloud to students prior to reading and then allow for the students to share their thinking. I then model how to record on the anticipation guide as students read. During reading, it is about closely reading for accuracy on the key statements. For a free anticipation guide template, click here.

This is an example of an anticipation guide. Students read statements about tarantulas before reading.

How can I provide the students’ with background?

When students are not familiar with the text, we need to provide them with more background on the topic and vocabulary. Pictures are a great way to build the vocabulary and expand the students’ knowledge prior to reading. For example, the word, transparent is difficult to explain. If you show a picture of transparent or an object that is transparent, students will better understand that word when they read. If studying about biomes, it may be helpful to show pictures of a deciduous and coniferous forest. Taking time to show pictures before reading can improve the students’ comprehension. Many students are visual learners and can learn from the pictures and group conversations before reading.

How do I set the purpose for reading?

The learning targets will guide your students on the purpose for reading. For example, describing the process in the water cycle can be broken down into smaller learning targets. Before reading, discuss vocabulary terms such as evaporation, condensation, and transpiration. Look at a diagram before reading to show students the water cycle. One learning target can be to explain the vocabulary terms used in the water cycle. Students can read and take notes on the vocabulary. The next day, the students can reread to label or draw a diagram with the vocabulary and write a short summary describing the diagram. The learning target would be to use the vocabulary terms to describe the water cycle. The purpose for reading should always match the learning target.

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